RMG sector's lax safety draws ire of European Parliament
Draft motion for resolution on Thursday
Published : Friday, 18 January 2013
The European Parliament (EP) is likely to adopt a resolution on the devastating fire incident at the Tazreen Fashions in Bangladesh that killed more than 111 workers in November last year.
A draft motion for the resolution that calls on the Bangladesh government to put in place measures that ensure full compliance with health and safety legislation will be voted on at the plenary session on Thursday, according to a statement.
The statement was issued by European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), a parliamentarians' group, Wednesday. The GUE/NGL is a left-wing political group with seats in the EP since 1995.
Some members of European Parliament Wednesday discussed what action the European Union (EU) should take following the tragic fire at the garment factory on November 24 last.
At the discussion, GUE/NGL member in European Parliament Paul Murphy condemned the failure of European big business to keep to its own "moral but useless" code of conduct.
The EU earlier mentioned about the proposed resolution in the European Parliament at Bangladesh-EU Joint Commission meeting held in Brussels on December 13 last, according to a message from ambassador Ismat Jahan at the Mission to the European Union (EU), Brussels.
"The resolution is being pushed by the socialist group in the Parliament and the overall focus of the text would be on the issues concerning the garment industry as well as the general conditions of labour situation in Bangladesh," the ambassador's communication noted.
Speaking at the debate in the European Parliament, Mr Murphy said: "I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families of the 112 workers who needlessly lost their lives in the fire at the Tazreen Fashion Ltd factory and to the families of all the estimated 700 other garment workers who have lost their lives in industrial fires in Bangladesh since 2006."
He highlighted that responsibility for the deaths lies with both the owners of these "death trap factories" as well as with European big business.
"Bangladesh is the world's second largest clothing exporter. Its clothing trade was worth US$ 19 billion in 2011 alone, with its factories producing for major brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Calvin Klein, H&M and Walmart," the lawmaker noted.
He also said: "Yet 40 per cent of the population lives under the poverty line of $1.25 a day. The workers, 85 per cent of whom are women, have a minimum wage of $37 a month and are often forcibly prevented from forming trade unions."
Mr Murphy also drew attention to denim jeans sandblasting, a commonplace industry practice in Bangladesh that puts workers at risk of contracting silicosis and lung cancer due to the silica particles they are forced to inhale.
"The Bangladeshi government should ban all forms of sandblasting, but also implement a public programme to provide social and medical assistance for workers affected by silicosis," the Irish member of EP suggested. "The EU must implement an import ban on sandblasted jeans if it is serious about protecting the health of workers in the most exploitative industries."
Currently, Europe is the largest export destination of Bangladeshi goods, buying 60 per cent of the country's apparel products.
The garment industry is considered the country's largest foreign currency earner, constituting more than 16 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), nearly 80 per cent of total export receipts, and providing direct employment to around 4.0 million people, of which 80 per cent are women.
On the other hand, the United States is mulling the possible withdrawal, suspension or limitation of Bangladesh's duty-free benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has sought public comments in this connection by January 31 this year.
Under the GSP programme, designated eligible imports from beneficiary- developing countries get duty-free access to the US market. However, the GSP benefits may be withdrawn, suspended, or limited by the US President with respect to any article or with respect to any country.